Craft Beer Branding: It Starts With A Story

This is the first in a series of four Biz Wire posts focused purely on craft beer branding. The Bizability Group recently hosted Brewing A Beer Buzz: The Secrets of Successful Craft Beer Branding, a craft beer branding seminar at Chapman University, and each of these craft beer branding pieces will highlight information from that seminar as well as incorporating current branding trends from across the country.

Cave man drawing for use in craft beer branding discussion

Cave man painting of a bull

Since the beginning of time, man has loved a good story. Cavemen huddled together, listening eagerly as hunters described bloody battles with beasts of prey. Spanish explorers returned home and tales were spun of  gold mountains and springs of water delivering eternal youth. So what does this have to do with craft beer branding?


Author and branding expert Laurence Vincent says in his book Brand Real, “Narratives are so ingrained in our way of thinking that we are always on the search for them.” An expertly crafted brand has a cue, such as a memorable logo or jingle, that instantly triggers the recall of that brand’s story in our mind. That’s powerful stuff, as any caveman would tell you–a quick glance at the cave wall and he could recite, word for word, the story associated with the picture on it.

What are some of the good stories used  in craft beer branding? Here’s one:  Iraq vets brewing ‘freedom’ in their craft beers. Young Veterans Brewing Company in Virginia is due to open later this summer, but Thomas Wilder and Neil McCanon have already written their story and they’re getting it out there; recently the Associated Press picked it up and ran with it.

Good brands need good stories.

Jarred Dooley - Playground DTSA discussing craft beer branding

Jarred Dooley, Director of Libations for Playground DTSA, at Bizability Group’s Brewing A Beer Buzz Seminar

Still not sure? Here’s what Jarred Dooley, a certified Cicerone and Director of Libations for Playground DTSA, has to say about story: “You can sell anything with a story. If there’s something there to talk about, it makes things a lot easier to sell, and something interesting instead of just generic.”

By now you should be convinced that a good craft beer brand needs a good story. When you begin putting your story together, there are three main ingredients you need to include:

  1. The reason behind your brand
  2. The benefits of your brand
  3. A strong narrative voice

Craft beer branding is a complicated task, and the skills required to create and maintain successful brands are specialized. Don’t be lulled into thinking that just because you can brew a great beer you can create a great craft beer brand. Make a budget for professional help, and then search for the pros that match your personality–and that you believe you can work with. And it will be work. Lots of work. But the rewards are great.

The next installment of our craft beer branding blog series will focus on the five steps to create a strong craft beer brand.

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